Babies love to keep us on our toes. Just when you start to think they’ve finally got this whole ‘sleeping’ thing sorted, they start to wake up more frequently at night, often distressed or in tears. 

This can make for very long and exhausting nights (and even longer days) for both you and bub.

It will also leave you wondering WHY is baby waking up crying? What is going on in that adorable little head of hers that’s making her upset?

Here are a few reasons why babies wake up crying at night. Plus, a few ideas on how you can try to settle them into a sleep schedule where crying isn’t part of the routine.

The “I want comfort cry” 

Reason: Around the six-month marker your little one may start to experience the first pangs of separation anxiety (it won’t be the last, trust us!). When she wakes at night she may realise you’re not right there and this can cause worry.

baby crying | new parent advice

Solutions:

  • During the day, play games that promote object permanence such as Peek-a-Boo
  • At night, leave a dim light on so she is not left completely in the dark
  • Go to your baby but try not to pick her up completely. Instead, try to help her soothe back to sleep with gentle patting or shushing. Check out How to Teach Your Baby to Sleep in a Cot for more self-settling tips.
  • Consider a white noise machine/app to play a “shushing” sound, similar to the ones we make when soothing our little ones
  • If you’re not against sleep aids, then consider a comfort object. The Lulla doll is quite popular as it has a heartbeat that can help baby settle when you are not there.

The “I’m in pain” cry 

Reason: Teething or tummy troubles can manifest at night, making it hard for your little one to get a good night’s rest.

baby waking up crying in cot

Solutions:

  • It can be hard to know if bub is teething, but if you do suspect it, then offer pain relief. Have a look at the latest guidelines on the safest way to help teething babies
  • If bub is windy (farting and burping, wriggling around a lot), then it could be tummy troubles. Sometimes digestive issues clear up on their own but it might be worth visiting a child health nurse or your local GP. They may be able to test bub’s poops to see if it is a food sensitivity.
  • You can also try and get the wind out during the day through baby massage and bicycle kicks. Plus lots and lots of burping!
  • Try gripe water, gas drops or colic mixtures to help with the excess wind at night.

The “I’ve learned something cool” cry

Reason: Crawling, sitting up, rolling over, pulling herself up – these are awesome new milestones and soooo fun to practice. Even at night. But the problem is, baby starts practicing her new skills, gets tired, gets stuck, gets frustrated and starts crying for you to come and help.

leap weeks

Solutions:

  • In many instances, it’s all about waiting for these new milestones to get boring to bub.
  • In the meantime, be firm when putting her back down. No eye contact, no talking, no engaging. This is sleep time, not play time. And not showcasing your skills time.

The “I don’t know how to fall back to sleep cry”

Reason: We all wake up throughout the night but often babies don’t have the ability to put themselves back to sleep once they’ve woken up. There’s a good chance your baby is waking up crying simply because he’s awake and doesn’t want to be. Some babies can put themselves to sleep without being taught but many cannot. They need to learn this skill.

baby crying in cot

Solution:

  • You’ve got two main options here. You can keep settling bub to sleep, over and over again. Or you can attempt to teach her to self-settle (aka sleep train her). Which one you choose will depend on how old baby is and your individual situation.
  • Many mums prefer to avoid sleep training and instead will look into gentler methods to keep bub settled at night (co-sleeping, dummies or sleep aids, dream feeding throughout the night, etc).
  • Other mums may prefer to stop baby waking up crying through sleep training. You can attempt one of the sleep training methods in the books (such as cry-it-out or the no-cry sleep solution). 
  • If you’re having a hard time, there are sleep schools and sleep experts that can help you with this. It’s not always an easy thing to do! Just don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The “I’m hungry or at least I think I’m hungry” cry

Reason: We know that when babies are very young, they need to eat frequently. But when babies are around six months old, they are ‘meant’ to be able to go around eight hours without a feed. But some babies get hungrier sooner than this. And other babies think they are hungry because they are used to getting milk whenever they need it at night.

cure baby's colic

Solutions:

  • It can be hard to know if bub is actually hungry or simply wants to suck for comfort. You can try other ways of settling baby to sleep (patting, shushing, or a dummy), to see if that works instead. If baby still won’t settle without a feed, perhaps she really is hungry.
  • Try to add an extra feed or two during the day. Many people suggest topping bub up with a formula feed, but this is your decision.
  • Try not to let her feed to sleep. Hard, I know. But if you put her down before she falls asleep on the breast or bottle, then she won’t wake up wondering where it went.

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Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

2 Comments

  1. A relative of mine overcame some of the overnight waking up by offering a little bit of cereal at the last night feed.

    Also your baby could need a nappy change, If you are brave you can feel inside the nappy. You don’t want your baby to have a sore red bum because of lack of nappy change.

  2. Another thing you could try in warm weather is some boiled water at room temperature. Baby may be thirsty, not hungry. Another thing my relative discovered. Also works well if disturbed by a noise (even if it’s only a car)

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